Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Flat Tire

Yesterday, I had the interesting experience of my SIXTH flat tire of the summer.  I'm getting a little tired of flats.  I've had more flats this summer than I have in all my years of biking so far.  I've flatted my hybrid once and my roadie five times, including the initial flat where I had to replace the entire tire.

Yesterday, I went out at about 630AM, intending to do an 11 mile ride and a 1.5 mile run.  Just like the training paper says.  I'm so good.

As I worked my way through West Hartford, I came to the part where West Hartford becomes Simsbury, and turned right onto Simsbury road.  Simsbury Road is gross- covered with debris and sand and gravel and broken glass.

A few hundred yards past the intersection, I felt that familiar-by-now feeling of riding on sand, and decided to pull up.  I unclipped, then remembered I am riding on new shoes.  Yes, I finally upgraded to real road pedals after 7 years of riding hybrid pedals.  This is significant, because road bike shoes are intended to be clipped in to pedals.  Period.

I took my front wheel off, patched the slit, and put in my new tube.  I was just starting to pump when the valve snapped in half and fell deep into my pump.  There I was:  5 miles from home, wearing road bike shoes with hard plastic bottoms and a big cleat, my only pump now jammed with my spare tube's broken valve.  I pulled out my cell phone... which promptly died.

It was now that I unleashed my finely honed vocabulary of swear words.

A homeowner backed out of his driveway in a big truck, pointed, and laughed, and drove away.

A biker on the other side of the road rolled by without a wave.

A biker commuting to work actually crossed the road and continued on her way.

A Police Officer checked to make sure I was not hurt, but he was running traffic and had left his phone in his cruiser.

At Bishop's Corner, I asked a group of parents sending their kids to camp if anyone could lend me a phone.  A man with a Blackberry clipped to his belt said, "No, I don't have a phone".  Two mothers gripped their children close, and said, "Sorry.  We don't have phones."  Yeah, I believe that, in affluent West Hartford, especially when you are sending your child to Rennbrook Day Camp.

I think it must be my very sketchy Italian looks- the dark hair, the big schnoz, the imposing quads, the facial scars masquerading as dimples.  If you saw me coming down the street, I'm sure you'd run screaming.  I guess I'm that terrifying.  I should work that, really, and take up a life of lucrative crime...

The only bright side:  early on in the fun, I walked by a synagogue, and one of the rabbis was walking to work.  He said the only practical things anyone said all day:  "Are you hurt?"  (I wasn't.) "Oh, then that is a blessing... Do you need to use a phone?  Here, use mine, don't worry about the minutes!"

I checked with a Rabbi friend.  It seems this would be considered a mitzvah.  Rock on, Rabbi!

All in all, I walked 4 miles in bike shoes from Simsbury to West Hartford before M (who had gotten the message the Rabbi left) found me, as he drove around my usual routes looking for me.

M saved me.  Here's my cleats, after four miles of walking, and the valve that broke and caused all this trouble!

Naughty valve.  There's supposed to be a piece on the top that keeps the air in.  Useful, really. 

Cleats, after Four Miles of walking.  Hopefully, now you get why people don't hike in road shoes.  My gearhead brother in law actually identified the type of pedals I ride in just by looking at the cleat.  Neat trick, indeed.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Brick Soup

It's official: enough of you have donated so I have to post wetsuit pictures.  My coach has them, so give me a day to get them from him.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

The ominous weather report of high humidity and high temperatures started mid-week.  We knew it would be muggy.  As I drove out to our starting point today, I realized I hadn't truly considered how muggy it would really be.  It was downright foggy.  By 7AM (our start), the fog had lifted.  Barely.  You could still see the sun slanting down through the trees.

The Timberman crowd and my group started out at the same time.  The Timberman is a half-Ironman.  Craaaazzzzzy people!  (Except they get to do longer bike rides...)

By mile 5, I could see that the fog was staying stubbornly stuck over the water.  I am not a sweaty type of person, and even I was starting to droop a bit.  The first part of the ride was pretty much constantly uphill.

But you don't ride bikes for uphills.  You ride bikes for what happened next: my group turned around, and started back.  And then it was mostly downhill.  And that's why you ride bikes.

My fastest speed was 36.5, in a tuck, on a downhill.  At that speed, you just give up your control, and let yourself fly.  Gravity isn't that important.

36.5 mph makes it worth it to do the run.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Today, after I did the morning workout, I walked into the bedroom and whispered into my sleepy husband's ear: "I did an aqua bike today.  The gym worker got really mad when I rolled into the deep end."  He muttered, "mmgorf?" from the depths of his pillow, and squinted into the morning light.  "You did what?"

I love whispering crazy things to M in the morning.

An aqua bike is like a brick, except that instead of biking and running, you swim and bike.  The point is to get yourself used to transitioning between the two sports, and to learn to change your gear in a decently swift manner.

For example, today, I rode to the gym, and decided to wear my swimsuit under my bike stuff.  Since the gym rules require swim suits, I can't exactly try out my tri suit in the pool.  I did the swim workout, hauled myself out of the water, and jogged to the locker room.

Where I became very glad that I will be wearing a tri suit.  Let's just say that pulling spandex shorts on over a wet body doesn't work well, at all.  The spandex gets stuck, and you drip chlorinated water into your eyes as you attempt to massage the gripper part of the leg onto the right part of your developing quads.  And have I mentioned it's 7AM as you are doing all this?  All the other women were primping for work, blow drying their hair and doing their makeup, and I was hopping around like a possessed frog, dripping everywhere.

I realized I will not be able to wear my swim cap under my helmet.  I thought it would help corral my hair, but I can't get my cochlear to seat with the swim cap on.  So I'll have to bring a baseball cap for the run, because my hair will be terrifying by then.

It's all vanity.

I also realized, as I put on my bike shoes, that the time had finally come for me to upgrade my shoes.  You see, as much as I love my bike, I love my frugality as well.  I've never- NEVER- bought anything full price for my bike.  I've been watching for a good shoe sale for a long time, thinking that maybe someday- when the price was right- I'd upgrade my shoes.

Sadly, every time a shoe went on sale, it didn't fit.  I have great swimming feet- they are shaped like flippers with a narrow heel and a big floppy spread of toes.  I also have an extra bone on top.  I have a very, very difficult foot to fit.

So I took a few hours' personal time, and went to the bike shop.  I had to get my rear brake looked at, and I took the opportunity to talk shoes.

And I bought the first ever thing I have ever bought for my bike... that was not on sale.  (It was still a good price, just not on sale.)

Somewhere in there, I might have crossed the line from "fun hobby" into "obsession".

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Martha and Mary

So on Sundays, I go off to do some supply preaching.  As a chaplain, I spend my regular life in the hospital, but because I'm married to a grad student who needs to be kept in the style in which he's accustomed, I do supply.   Besides, it's an occupational hazard that I define my life by the rhythms of church liturgy.

Today is Martha and Mary day- it's a great story.  On the surface, it seems that we have busy Martha doing her housework.  Her lazy sister is sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Jesus, being a typical man, is doing nothing to lend a hand, but he chastises Martha for working and tells us that housework sucks and that Mary has chosen the better life.  As a kid, I was right there.  Absolutely, the person who chose NOT to do the housework has absolutely chosen the better life.

Believe me, when my arm was in the cast and I had a maid service coming for a few months, I loved not doing my housework.

But that's not what the story is really about.  Friends who studied Greek (I took Hebrew) figured out that the word for the sort of work that Martha is doing is a word that does not typically refer to housework.  Martha might not be cooking in the kitchen for Jesus.  She might be serving a deacon in her community- one of the elders who had responsibility for making sure widows, children, and the poor were cared for.

And Mary wasn't simply being a lazy contemplative.  Sitting at the feet of Jesus, she has boldly taken the place of a disciple- taking a place typically reserved for a man.

In other words, both Martha and Mary have boldly seized roles that have previously been reserved for men in their society.  Because of their friend Jesus, they were empowered to step outside the traditional constraints and become new people.

Meaning that, if they had been being typical women, we wouldn't even have a story.  They are essential to the telling of the Good News.

And, personally, being a radical myself, I believe that the emerging church has nothing to do with using techniques to get people to return to the pews.  People didn't leave because they weren't hungry: they left because church wasn't feeding them.  In many ways, the church is a traditional 4 star French restaurant, losing diners because we are operating in an era when people want to eat local, seasonal, simple food. We can't just re-draw the menu and keep serving the same food.  We need to radically re-vision the menu we are serving.  We need to be willing to change the food.  The palate of our culture has changed.

 What Jesus tells Martha is that Mary has chosen the essential thing: Mary has chosen to take some time to be filled, and he wants Martha to be filled to.  Mary and Martha are both radical women who have taken on a new role in society, a demanding role.  They are treading a new path and in order to walk this way, they must be fed in their souls.  Jesus isn't chastising his underlings.  He's asking his friends to rest with him, and be filled.

It's a radical thing.

Happy Sunday!  For the Record, it's incredibly humid out there.  I went to bed with a stuffy nose, woke up at 3AM to find my insomniac husband puttering around the house, and went back to sleep in the A/C because the humidity is just disgusting! I've likened it to a walk-in neti pot.  It also means that there may be no outside training today.  I tried on Friday, and almost got sick with heat exhaustion- I overheated and couldn't get a break.  So it may well be a pool day today.

Keep the donations coming!  Just a few more, and I'll have to post wetsuit pictures!

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Wetsuit!

I now own a wetsuit.  Included in the fundraising (and part of the reason why tris have such a high minimum) is the wetsuit.  They give us a wetsuit because they are training many tri newbies, most of whom know nothing about how to buy or try on or use wetsuits.  Nor do we know anything about water temperature.  In my mind, (with one exception), all water is cold, cold, cold.  I've always walked to the gym, even now, in the heatwave; and even now, I lower myself into the 84 degree water one frigid inch at a time, squeaking "OO-ee, OO-ee, OO-ee!"  I don't do cold well.

The thought of the Potomac- miles and miles of frigid water that has direct commerce with the ocean- filled me with dread.  Yes, I was thrilled with the wetsuit.

And I now know why the swim comes first in a triathlon.  It has nothing to do with the swim being hard or anything like that.  It has everything to do with the fact that it will take me an hour to get INTO my wetsuit, and if we did the swim second, you'd have all these athletes flopping around trying desperately to smoosh themselves into an insulated sausage casing.

As I pulled it out of its wrapping, I was convinced they'd sent me the wrong one.  Unstretched, it's about the size of a 5-year-old child.  But I'm a woman, people.  I can cover a 12 hour day in a trauma 1 hospital in heels and a skirt.  I can handle a tight suit.

Ten minutes later, I was still hopping around, massaging body parts and doing deep squats while groaning and saying things like, "Oh, this is harder than it looks" in a language pronounced like this:  "AAAAAAooooooooggggguuuuhhhhhheeeeeeeeee!"

Finally, I had it all on and pulled up the zipper. I took an experimental walk.  It practically straightens your legs for you.  I feel buoyant already!  Of course, that could be beginning heatstroke because that thing is HOT!  I started sweating in seconds.  

Ill let you know how it goes when I finally get out in open water.

PS- the only water I consider NOT cold:  hot tubs, for one, like the nice waterfall whirlpool at the gym.  And my shower, which I usually have turned up to a nice balmy temperature I like to call "Lobster Pot". I'm sure my soul is doomed, right?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Good Times

If you would have told me, 8 years ago, that there would ever be a reason for which I would wake up early, with gladness, I would have had you committed.  When I lived in the Holy Lands (aka, Northern Virginia), and would drive to visit family here in The Wastelands (aka, Connecticut), I would sleep late and leave after the traffic died down, around 9:30 or 10AM.  My mother, on the other hand, is the type who gets up at 6AM and leaves promptly at 7, offering a bribe of caffeine.  (We won't discuss what my dad does except to explain that he leaves so early, he usually drives for a few hours before the coffee shops even open.)

It goes without saying that I don't do mornings.  A few years ago, when I was living in Arlington, I was riding pretty seriously- 70-100 miles a week.  I quickly discovered the air quality was untenable during the summer.  

To feed my bike addiction survive, I would get up at 5AM, down some sports drink or another, eat a little sandwich, and take my ride out.  I'd ride for an hour or two, and roll home between 7 and 8.  I'd be showered and changed and have the paper read and be at work by 930.  It remained, for years, almost the only thing that could ever coax me out of bed early.  The other thing came when I was first dating M. I once dragged him out of bed at the crack of dawn because he'd promised me a rock climbing trip to Great Falls.  But that's IT.

In the wastelands extreme mugginess of Hell Connecticut, I find mugginess makes riding and running unpleasant unless you are willing to play nice with Nature.  So our coaches set us a 7AM start time, with a 6:45AM mechanic/clinic check.

It made for a very nice morning today.  I woke up before the alarm, and had my bike racked and my old M.O.M's grocery bag super-cool gear bag in my car before I even remembered to feel resentful about the hour.  I made it out to the right commuter lot this week, with a PB and honey sandwich tucked away and a Clif bar awaiting me.

My Tri team has a lot of really nice people, and their best personality trait: they are even more bike-crazy than me.  So we can sit around and talk gear and tire changing and how high someone's seat should be and the colors of clips on pedals until we are blue in the face.  I mean, with whom can I discuss the merits of the hitch-mount tray rack?  Or find out which bike shop really DOES have a mysogynistic mechanic?   I rode with Coach Mike and Chris the newbie. I think the coach felt all paternal and protective of him... until Chris got onto a straightaway and just peeled off.  Coach Mike looked at me and said, "Oh.  I guess we better go catch him."  And it was WORK!  So my buddy Ben has not just me, but also Chris to raise money for a good cause.

And a 7AM start time was really, really fun.  (But, sorry, Mom, I STILL won't get up to do a road trip at that time.  The fun of a 5:51AM alarm will remain attached solely to biking exploits.  Unless you are buying breakfast.  In which case I'll get up, but I won't drive.)

We wrapped up just as the dark grey clouds rolled in, spitting the first drops of what would become a torrential downpour that would finally, blessedly, break the heat.  Same time next week, eh?

Friday, July 9, 2010


Today I jumped in the pool for the second time since the surgery.  I feel lots and lots better, though every now and then I feel a twinge here or there.  I especially notice my tight hamstrings and think I need to start doing ballet stretches like I used to do when I lived in Arlington.  I tighten up easily, so I used to stretch for as much as 15 minutes before and after bike sessions and general workouts.  (Not to mention taking an awesome yoga class!)  Hmmmmm.... if it worked in the past, I should probably start it again!  Is there any way I have time to add yoga to this regimen...?

Anyway, I decided I'd swim as long as I could, or for 35 minutes or for the full workout.   Whichever wore me out first. The assigned distance was 1750 meters.  This was 35 pool laps.  The pool laps are 50 meters each.

As I started swimming, I concentrated on technique and breathing, and found that I was actually doing really well with having enough air.  Unlike a few months ago, I could actually feel like I was moving along without worrying about when to breath.  I had air to spare.  I like that feeling.

I also noticed that my hips seem to be getting into the game- I started to feel some knee pressure, so I stretched my legs a little longer, and suddenly, my whole leg started making a kick motion that was all dolphin like, and I started shooting through the water.  Holy dolphin, Batman!  I think I am getting the idea.

I swam a solid 35 laps, in 45 minutes.  Then I dragged myself out of the water and slogged around like a sloth for a few minutes wondering if I'd ever be able to get on a bike or move again.  I tried to imagine myself a sandwich.  I didn't even want a sandwich.  Sandwiches are holy food to me. This was disturbing...  Thankfully, that feeling passed quickly.  I think if I hydrate and eat a little right after the swim, I'll be fine on the bike.

Of course, I remained worried about the whole distance.  How much further did I have to train for?  How much time would I have?  How far away was I from the goal distance?  I pulled out a converter and employed my math-genius hubby, M, to help.

The Olympic tri swim distance is 1.5 km, or just under a mile.  We have 1.5 hours to complete the swim.

Today I swam... just under a mile in 45 minutes.

Watch out, DC.  This just might be possible after all!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How Today Went

Well, it was an interesting day.  I woke up at 6AM, stepped out, and thought I'd pass out from the humidity.  I decided I'd do an indoor, A/C workout.  Then I realized I had a killer craving for carbs, but had no bread in the house, and am too cheap to get a bagel more than about once or twice a month.  So I made an egg, and told myself I was fine.

I packed a fabulous delicious salad for lunch (with some Star Wars cookies for dessert.  Those are awesome!), and when I got to the table where my colleagues were, they were all eating pizza!  So my craving intensified and I began to have woozy dreams of pizza.

Then my friend C in Arkansas drops me a line and mentions how he wishes he and his wife and me and my hubby could all get together to catch up at a Fuddruckers.  This was his and my favorite burger joint in Seminary, and suddenly I desperately wanted a shroom burger on a Fuddruckers roll.

Then my coach writes us all emails and says, essentially, "All right, you wimps, put on your sport shorts with the built-in big girl panties, stop whining, and go out in the humidity, it will make you STRONG!"  Okay, he's actually a very nice, gentle, understanding coach, but he did tell us to go outside.

So I went outside!  But  not before I called M and begged him to meet me at Whole Foods so I could get pizza, which I did.  Mushroom and gorgonzola.  Aren't you happy you don't have to sleep with me tonight? Mmmm... stinky cheese!  And then I went home, changed, and went outside.

And guess what?  I ran the WHOLE RUN without stopping once!  I started with my usual trick: "I'll run to that fire hydrant, and walk to the next telephone pole", but I decided I'd drop the walking bits, and I could actually do it!  I ran the whole run!  Whoo hoo!

And then I came home, cooked the garbanzo beans (M is making me hummus and getting me Gatorade. I'm feeling very loved), and made a fabulous quinoa salad with seaweed in it.  If it's really as good as I think it is, I'll post the recipe.

So I ran in the Horrible HeatWave and I did not die.  I hope this will do well by me as the temps drop, or at least, save me a bit if DC is hot in September.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Running is Trying to Kill Me. Again.

Just when I was trying to make my peace with running... it tried to kill me again this morning.  I did 3.5 miles of forward movement, but there was much groaning and gnashing of teeth.

I want to know who in the h*ll thought running was a good part of a triathlon.  Couldn't we have done, you know, swimming, biking, and maybe eating donuts?  Or swimming, biking, and horseback riding?  Or swimming, road biking, and mountain biking?  Or swimming, biking, and roller skating?  All of these, if you don't notice, include substantial built in easy periods.

Running requires constant activity, even on the downhill.  Unlike my beloved bike, there is no tuck and fly in a run- you are moving your own chub tush all the way.  Unlike swimming, the water does not swirl around you and make you feel cool and calm.  Horseback riding gives you an instant buddy.  Roller skating allows periods of coasting.

Running puts the most strenuous activity at the end of the race.  And I therefore believe that the inventor of the triathlon obviously loved punishment, and he wants humanity to cry aloud with weeping.

20 miles on a bike tomorrow.  Now that's what I call rest.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Back to Training, and Lucky to Have a Good Coworker!

So I got back to training yesterday, and let me tell you, it's not easy to have your ab muscles sliced open in the middle of a training program!  I actually- for the first time EVER on a Trek and for the first time since I had my old heavy restored clunker in Seminary 7 years ago- had to get off on a little hill and push to the top.  I hadn't geared down enough for my weakened state, and didn't have the muscle reserve to push through.  Oh the shame!! the shame!!

My coach tells me to take it slow this week as I build back.  The running was pretty tough and was awfully jolting to my sore abs.  But I didn't stop the whole mile!  I'll count that as a win.

The part where things got awkward was me heading to work.  I got dressed, checked myself out in the mirror, and decided I was okay.  I had a feeling like I'd have to start being careful.  You see, between the surgery, watching my nutrition, and working out every day, I've started losing both weight and inches.

This became embarrassingly obvious when my marvelous and excellent co-worker, the Social Worker, comes up to me in the ED and says "I can see your belly!"

That's right- my heretofore favorite pants were making a run for it and attempting to fall off.  They used to cover my poochy belly, I SWEAR, but yesterday I noticed they are distinctly loose and do not have belt loops.

Awkward: (adj.) When the chaplain's pants fall off at work.  Oops.

The Social Worker will be glad to know I excused myself to the gift store, bought safety pins, and pinned my shirt to my underwear to keep my middle under wraps.  I spent the rest of the day in prayer, pulling up my trousers at regular intervals and swearing I would find a tailor.